Meet the beetles
IBeetle Queen Conquers Tokyo, documentary, not rated, in English and Japanese with subtitles, The Screen, 3.5 chiles Apparently, insects don’t bug the Japanese all that much. Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo is not the tasty B-movie that the title suggests — Mothra is nowhere to be found — but rather a documentary about the country’s fascination with its insects. The film opens with a professional hornet hunter searching for specimens in a dark forest and quickly moves to the phenomenon of keeping large beetles as pets before touching on every aspect of the relationship between Japanese people and their insects. We see children playing an insect-catching video game and a collector carefully stretching and pinning the wings of a dead moth. We spend time at a tourist destination where people come to see fireflies. Incredibly, Mothra might be the only Japanese-insect connection that isn’t turned over.
At one point, director Jessica Oreck (whose enviable day job is as an animal keeper at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City) examines Zen meditation gardens — those fixed spaces where a few scattered rocks loom over a patch of carefully swept sand. The intent of these gardens, Oreck suggests, is similar to that of haiku: to reduce the whole of the universe into a manageable space, in order to best contemplate it. She appears to have similar goals with Beetle Queen: to study general subjects such as Japan’s culture, history, and identity by closely examining the specific topic of its infatuation with insects and, by extension, its appreciation for minimalism, simplicity, and transience.